Do you spend time regularly helping a loved one manage medications, shop, prepare meals and get to doctor appointments? Often, people who provide this kind of unpaid assistance with daily living and medical tasks don’t consider themselves a caregiver. You might think, “I’m just doing what any good son/daughter/spouse/friend would do.”  But according to research, this kind of support holds tremendous value to the American health care system (estimated at $470 billion in 2013) while the long-term emotional, physical and financial implications for those providing the care often gets overlooked.
Many people who provide assistance to aging loved ones have no training or outside support for a role that often becomes increasingly difficult over time. This can have a negative impact on the caregiver’s well-being and often influences the decision to place a loved one in long-term care. This is why our Care Coordinators often tell clients, “The #1 Rule of Caregiving is to take care of yourself first.” Or as the flight attendants like to say, “Put on your own oxygen mask first.”
If a caregiver ignores all of his/her own needs to focus on a loved one, then the well-being of both people are compromised.  The stress of daily caregiving and the financial strain of lost work time can also lead to higher incidences of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and physical illness among caregivers. But thankfully, many of these risk-factors can be decreased or avoided just by noticing the warning signs and seeking out help from experienced professionals.
Caregiver StressWith shorter hospital stays and increased home care technology, the need for informal caregiving will only continue to increase. Procedures like IV medications and outpatient surgery, that used to require a hospital stay and extended nursing care, are now being provided in the community with minimal support from professional staff.  Family members often find themselves doing things they never imagined possible (though often quite well) and don’t know where to turn for guidance and support.
If you or someone you know is in this situation, contact our Care Coordinators who can help you identify the right agencies and services based on your needs. There are a variety of local, state-wide and national programs targeted specifically to caregiver support. Financial assistance is also available in some situations.
You can also visit the following websites for additional information/resources:
Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging Caregiver Support Program
Ohio Department of Aging National Caregiver Support Program